Kjell Salvanes, Norwegian School of Economics

First generation elite: the role of school social networks
Friday, 26 November 2021 - 9:30 am to 11:00 am
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Myra Mohnen
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Free of charge
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The title of the paper:  First generation elite: the role of school social networks

Abstract A very high return is associated with studying for an elite degree. With intergenerational persistence particularly at the top of parental education distribution, low socio-economic status (SES) students face barriers from becoming a first generation. We focus on the causal effect of elite social networks - measured by the elite education of high school peers’ parents, on the probability to study for an elite degree (including law, STEM or medicine) and ask if these effects differ across SES. Exploiting within-school cross-cohort variation in the proportion of elite parent peers, we find a meaningful effect of social networks on elite education choices. There is important heterogeneity, as the role of elite parent peers is three times higher in high SES compared to low SES households. Whilst on average having an elite social network of parent peers can help low SES students, this peer effect is lower if the aspirations of students are too far from the elite peers. Elite parent peers can even have a negative effect - by lowering both the student’s relative rank of ability and the teachers’ assessment of the low SES student.

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